Grief and Abuse

As I worked to heal from the abuse I endured, I kept bumping up against something I couldn’t name and couldn’t get around. What was this “thing” that kept getting in the way? Why was my healing being limited? Mind you, I am not implying I was skating through healing, but I was taking small steps forward. And yet. I considered that my expectations might be too high. Ok, I did need to be gentler on myself. Check. I learned to be more mindful of being, well, mindful. What was this lingering issue, though? And then one day it became clear what I kept contending with: grief. I had grieved the death of my marriage. I had grieved the lost hopes, plans, and dreams. I had grieved the safety, love, and caring I didn’t experience in my marriage. I had grieved the loss of relationships with the people who chose not to be supportive. I had “done grief,” and I had grieved so much. And yet.

It’s ironic that I missed how much grief was a part of my abuse story and is a part of my healing lifestyle because I had specifically chosen classes on grief during my masters program. In fact, I had written research papers on grief. I had studied the concept of how emotions feel. I had learned that sometimes we feel an emotion in our body before we know we even have a conscious thought about it. I had even written clinical research that discussed the somatic effects of emotions (i.e. how they feel in your body), and the research was published in a scientific journal. And yet.

The grieving I had already done had been meaningful and freeing for me. I knew how vital griefwork is to healing, and I had been very intentional about acknowledging and processing my grief. I knew grief was both an emotion and an experience. And yet, the amount of ongoing grief caught me by surprise. As it turns out, grief often seems just around the corner…and that’s ok. At times I am grieving something I never had, not something I lost. I’ve learned to feel the grief in my body. One of the cornerstone pieces of my healing journey has been learning how to listen to my body. That is a reality I love helping people identify! It brings me joy to coach women about how to recognize the messages your body is sending you; I can feel that joy even as I write about it!

The next time you feel something uncomfortable in your body, ask yourself if it could be grief. Are you experiencing (or are you thinking about) anything that points out something you wish you had? Let me give you an example of how grief snuck up on me: I was walking into the fitness club where I work (free membership for employees!) and a couple about my age was walking in together and smiling. I felt some kind of discomfort; something was activated inside me. They were wearing expensive workout gear. Was I envious? No, that wasn’t it. Was I sad because they seemed happy? I know that sounds unattractive, but I have a feeling you understand that concept. Was I annoyed because they were walking slower than I wanted to walk? And then the thought came: could this be grief? I knew what shame, anger, and fear felt like in my body. Whew, now I needed to learn how grief felt, how grief feels (because healing is a lifestyle, not a finish line). I was grieving the fact that I was not enjoying a relationship like this couple who was around my age. That is not a pretend loss; it is so painfully real! It is so real I could feel it.

Grief is an unavoidable part of the healing journey, and that’s ok. I have learned how to ride the waves of grief. Sometimes I know it’s coming; sometimes I see the wave before it hits; sometimes it rises in me before I am aware of it; and sometimes it still knocks me over. But I have learned to regulate myself more consistently and re-regulate myself when I get knocked off my emotional feet. I’ve also learned to gently walk through the painful pieces of my past and process so much unresolved grief. Losses and sorrows I experienced years and even decades ago have come to the surface as I now have enough emotional space and safety to tenderly walk through and work through them. In many situations, it was the unresolved grief that was keeping me stuck and keeping the trauma stuck in my body. I’d be honored to talk to you about this and share what I’ve learned on my journey. 

chiropractic spine


Learn how we can help with your pain